Including People with Disabilities in Emergency Relief Efforts

Pauline Oosterhoff, Maria Kett


The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 15 per cent of the world’s population, or one billion people, have some form of disability.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 80 per cent live in poor countries, where communities are already more vulnerable to disasters and crises such as the current Ebola epidemic, with people with disabilities often disproportionately affected.

More must be done to ensure the needs and rights of people with disabilities are fully recognised in disaster risk reduction and emergency responses. Accelerating progress will require inclusive humanitarian programming and the use of technological solutions to be effectively promoted and incentivised, and people with disabilities and their organisations to be involved from the outset in the design and implementation of policies and programmes.


  • Develop an agreed set of meaningful indicators for identifying needs and capacities of people with different types of disabilities to ensure they are included in responses.
  • Establish incentives and funding mechanisms that incentivise inclusive humanitarian programming.
  • Design and offer essential training packages that include tools to develop awareness, skills and competencies on disability inclusion for humanitarian practitioners, policymakers and donors, and that can be adapted for different contexts and scenarios.
  • Support the involvement of Disabled People’s Organisations and the development of accessible technology to facilitate the inclusion of disability issues across the humanitarian cycle, including in long-term reconstruction and rehabilitation.
  • Advocate for the inclusion of indicators to promote the rights and needs of all people with disabilities across the new Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.


Oosterhoff, P. & Kett, M. (2014). Including People with Disabilities in Emergency Relief Efforts. IDS Rapid Response Briefing 8. Brighton: IDS.